THE tradition of the currach boat is a long one in Ireland. They have been around for 2,000 years and St Brendan sailed in one to Newfoundland in the 6th century.
The row from Crosshaven to Cork City takes place this Saturday, April 29 in aid of Marymount.
IMAGINE having your own chauffeur. Imagine your very own seamstress, a nail technician or a hairdresser on call to give you a much-needed boost. Then there are those who will prepare you a home-cooked meal and blend a Tequila Sunrise for you during Happy Hour.
Imagine having someone always at hand just to cheer you up.
“Well, time is one thing that I have plenty of,” says Frank Peyton, who is one of 240 volunteers who freely give of their time and services at Marymount University Hospital. “It is like quicksand around here. You get sucked in!”
Frank, who is retired, adds: “I get to do a lot of jobs here. I do a lot of driving, escorting people to hospital for their check-ups. I meet and greet patients and family members and I often work on reception, as well as being a Minister of the Eucharist.”
Frank is good at multi-tasking. He laughs.
“I am. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work here. Sometimes, people are concerned when they come to Marymount. I settle them in and show them the facilities and then they all relax. The fear factor dissipates. I look at the patient, not at their illnessk.
“Often, when people are suffering an illness, they can lose their identity. I like to chat with the patients about their hobbies. I am on first name terms with all of them. The happier the patient, the happier their family.”
Marymount thrives on its volunteers.
“We couldn’t survive without them,” says Noreen Smiddy, Volunteer Co-ordinator. “They integrate into the whole community, including the medical staff, the catering staff, the patients and their families. It is all-inclusive. Every job here is valued.”
Frank wanted to be included when both his sisters, Phil and Sheila, died. “Phil had lung cancer and she was looked after in Marymount Hospice, Wellington Road,” he says. “Sheila received wonderful care from the nurses in her own home. I decided when I retired I would volunteer. I’m involved in Meals and Wheels too. And I do get fed at home occasionally,” jokes Frank.
The volunteers bring their life-skills and people-skills to the table.
“I am a seamstress,” says Mary Cahill, a retired primary school teacher.
Where is her station?
“Usually in the laundry,” she says.
“My mother was in Marymount in Wellington Road too. I minded her at home until she had to go there. When she was in Marymount for the last week of her life, all stress, worry and uncertainty disappeared.”
Mary was a regular visitor to her mother’s ward. “I made connections with the people there,” she says. “I taught one of the lady’s grandchildren. She was from Ardmore. She asked me if I would keep visiting her after my mother died. I did that for three months.”
Mary is good with a needle. “I’m good at repairing clothes and hand-sewing,” she says. “I thought, why not volunteer? I felt it was really rewarding and you feel needed.
“I label everything and keep track of the clothes. I might alter a pair of curtains that are too wide. It doesn’t matter. I enjoy being involved in the Mass and often do a reading. I love the interaction with people. The great history of care here makes everything easier. There is the utmost respect for everyone and each person is cherished.”
The pampering sessions are cherished. Mary O’Neill, who used to work in the bank, did a nail course when she finished there and says: “Everyone likes to be pampered, don’t they?”
How did she get the idea of volunteering?
“I saw a UK programme with Esther Rantzen on TV about volunteering,” says Mary. “I thought I could do the same here. I rang the old Marymount in Wellington Road. They told me to come up. That was 10 years ago. It was like going to school on my first day. It suited me to a tee.”
The menfolk like a bit of pampering too.
“They like to get their nails filed and they like hand-massages. I never view the people as patients, only as people,” says Mary. “The Day Care Service is very sociable, we all get to know one another. I often help out with the tea and go to the shop for messages. It is a boost for the people who are sick to have therapies not associated with the medical side of things. I find that they open up to you and chat away.”
Frank agrees. “Chatting is greatly under-rated. We all chat for Ireland. It is all about fulfilling the wishes of the people outside of their medical needs.”
The volunteers bond with the people.
“It is easy to get attached,” admits Mary. “There are long-stay residents here in the Service for Older People which is now their home. Residents don’t live in our workplace — we work in their home.”
Noreen is delighted with her team. “Curraheen became a new geographical area in terms of recruiting new volunteers and more volunteers joined here as a result,” she says.
“More professional people retired and looked to make their free time more rewarding. There is huge scope here for people’s talents. We have musicians, artists, singers. We offer art therapy and pet therapy too. It is all inclusive, operating within the organisation’s mission and ethos.”
Job satisfaction is paramount.
“Volunteers rarely leave,” says Noreen. “There are less vacancies. They enjoy their work. All the volunteers are willing to be here. There are many roles to fill; in the garden, in the office, general maintenance.
“Local multi-national companies are great to support us and part of the wider community. Pupils from Ballinora National School help maintain the gardens and Ballincollig Flower Club decorate our main reception and St Patrick’s Oratory.”
“Great friendships are made,” says Noreen. “The longest serving volunteer was with us for 30 years and then became a resident here. She even picked out her own bed!”
The rewards of working as a volunteer at Marymount Hospice are many.
“There are no wages involved,” says Frank. “But you get so much more out of it. You have the freedom to do it and you made the choice to do at the right time in your life for you. Most of us live near enough to the hospice and the 208 bus pulls up outside.”
The two Marys love to see people’s delight when they get a new dress or a nice manicure.
“It is a fun job,” says Mary O’Neill. “Patients love to see new style and enjoy the banter.”
And there are perks.
“We have a mighty knees-up on the first Thursday of every December,” says Frank. “All the staff and volunteers join in the party.”
Mary Cahill adds: “It is good to hold a person’s hand and to be able to offer comfort. The sense of fulfilment at having made a difference makes all the difference to you.”
- Marymount University Hospital is a healthcare facility providing two distinct services. An Elderly Care Facility provides respite care, intermediate palliative care and continuing care. Marymount Hospice helps patients with progressive illnesses, cancer and non-cancer, when pain or other symptoms need addressing. Support is offered to families suffering a loss or who are bereaved.